Supporting your eye health is important throughout your life, but becomes especially important as you get older.
Around age 40, the lenses of the eyes begin to lose their elasticity and small print becomes harder to read, necessitating reading glasses for many.
Also with age, the incidence of retinopathy and other disorders of the retina increases. Lenses cloud over as cataracts form, and central vision may disappear as age-related macular degeneration progresses.
Fortunately, the retina has the remarkable ability to repair itself—but only if it is given the proper conditions. Some free-radical damage to your eyes is unavoidable, but an appropriate diet, nutritional supplementation, and other lifestyle changes can reduce damage and help preserve healthy eyes.
Nutritional Support for Eyes
Back in 2001, a groundbreaking study called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) revealed that supplements containing 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 25,000 IU of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc, and 2 mg of copper were extremely effective at staving off the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
A follow-up study (AREDS2) tested and retested these nutrients with and without additional nutrient combos. The new study confirmed that targeted nutrients reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration by 25–30 percent. It also revealed that adding omega-3s had no effect and that the combination of two carotenoids—10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin, used in place of beta-carotene—was equally effective. Furthermore, this study suggested that beta-carotene competes with lutein and zeaxanthin for absorption and that the amount of zinc that can be optimally absorbed by the body is 25 mg.
Based on this research, my top recommendation to protect your eyes and vision is to take a targeted supplement that contains the nutrients highlighted in the AREDS2 study (lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc, etc.) coupled with a high-quality daily multinutrient.
Lifestyle Habits That Support Eye Health
- Exercise. Researchers in the UK found that higher levels of physical activity have a long-term beneficial impact on low ocular perfusion pressure (OPP), a significant risk factor for glaucoma. More specifically, study participants who had exercised moderately 15 years previously had a 25 percent reduced risk of low OPP.
- Eat foods high in antioxidants. Free radical damage is one of the primary causes of vision loss and other eye conditions, so one of the best ways to naturally support your eye health is with antioxidants. Increase your intake of these important nutrients by eating more vegetables and fruits, especially dark, leafy greens. In one study, men who ate cooked spinach twice a week had half the risk of cataract surgery compared to those who ate it less than once a month. Plus, another study found that women who ate spinach five times a week had a 45 percent reduced risk of cataracts. Other foods linked to supporting eye health and reducing risk of vision loss include broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, melons, and citrus fruits.
- Limit your exposure to blue light. Every time you watch TV or look at your computer, smartphone, or tablet, you expose your eyes to blue light. Cumulative exposure over time can hurt your eyes. While you probably can't (or don't want to) fully eliminate these electronics from your life, try to limit use. Supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin can also help to protect your eyes from the potential dangers of blue light.
- Include one whole egg in your daily diet. Lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in the macula. One good source of these carotenoids is egg yolks. In fact, one study found that eating six eggs per week increased density of the macular pigment and raised blood levels of zeaxanthin, with minimal effect on cholesterol.
- Quit smoking. Smoking triples risk of cataracts and quadruples risk of macular degeneration.